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  • Get Your Kicks on Route 66: Drive the United States' Most Famous Road
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    Get Your Kicks on Route 66: Drive the United States' Most Famous Road

  • Experience Cowboy Culture: Visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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    Experience Cowboy Culture: Visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

  • Get Sauced: Sample Oklahoma City-style Barbecue
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    Get Sauced: Sample Oklahoma City-style Barbecue

  • Experience The Way the West Was: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
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    Experience The Way the West Was: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Sooner Scenery Sights: A Classic Oklahoma Road Trip
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Sooner Scenery Sights: A Classic Oklahoma Road Trip

By Jenny Willden

  • Route distance:
    317.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    3 days

Cowboys, barbecue and wide-open spaces.

Oklahoma still has much of the mystique and wonder that drove settlers here during the state's 1889 Land Rush. These 50,000 homesteaders raced to claim the city's land in a day, and the town sprang up overnight. Much of this pioneer past is preserved at museums and monuments in the state capital Oklahoma City, which is now also known for its vibrant nightlife, arts, sports and culinary scenes. Once you've sampled juicy southwestern barbecue and taken in a baseball game or two, travel north into Kansas to see the last of the prairie lands that once stretched from Canada to Texas.

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What to bring: A pair of hiking boots for exploring the grasslands, a hat for Oklahoma's sunny days and a camera to document it all.   

Say Howdy to Downtown Oklahoma CityTake a connecting flight from most major U.S. cities to Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport, located 10 kilometers southwest of the city center. Oklahoma's capital city is also its largest, known for its still-thriving cowboy culture and revitalized downtown that is home to the Bricktown Entertainment District. 

Get a taste of the Bricktown's art culture by walking through Flaming Lips Alley, a street named for the alt-rock band that hails from Oklahoma City. Continue the Flaming Lips tour at  historic Automobile Alley's psychedelic, mural-covered WOMB Gallery, which was founded by the band's frontman Wayne Coyne. When you're done, sample eats at Bleu Garten, an outdoor food truck park and bar. Sports fans should make time to take in a baseball game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, home to the Oklahoma City Dodgers. You can also tour the city by boat with a water taxi ride on the canal, cruising past the Oklahoma Land Run Monument, afterward stopping to sample taste's at the local bars and restaurants.

24 km
0.5 hours by car
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Get Your Kicks on Route 66: Drive the United States' Most Famous Road
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Get Your Kicks on Route 66: Drive the United States' Most Famous Road

The USA's classic byway, Historic Route 66, stretches 644 kilometers across Oklahoma. There's no better way to explore it than renting a car and driving it. On the road, you'll encounter retro car service stations, museums, the State Capitol building and landmarks like the Round Barn — now restored to its 1890s grandeur. Stop at roadside attractions like the world's largest bottle of pop, found outside Pops Arcadia. Pops serves up nearly 700 varieties of soda ranging from classic colas to unique flavors like peanut butter and jelly. Pair your choice with classic U.S. diner fare like hamburgers, fries and milkshakes.

24 km
0.5 hours by car
03
Experience Cowboy Culture: Visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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Experience Cowboy Culture: Visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

From Pops Arcadia, take Historic Route 66 to Interstate 35 toward Oklahoma City. Take the Interstate 44 interchange and follow signs to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum—the place to learn about the USA's Wild West roots. Visitors have been coming to this unique museum for more than 60 years to see art and artifacts preserved from the U.S. West and to learn about the history and cultures of this time. View sculptures and paintings by renowned United States' artists and a full-size replica of a Western town or browse galleries on firearms, rodeos and cowboys. Outside, a beautiful garden and children's area delights the young and old.

6 km
04
Get Sauced: Sample Oklahoma City-style Barbecue
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Get Sauced: Sample Oklahoma City-style Barbecue

Now that you've worked up an appetite at the museum, taste the food that makes the South so famous: barbecue. This cooking technique uses smoke from a wood fire to slowly cook meat, which is then topped with a sauce typically made vinegar or tomato paste paired with onion powder, spices and sweeteners like sugar or molasses. Called barbecue sauce, this condiment is used all over the U.S. and each region produces it a little bit differently. 

What makes Oklahoma's barbecue unique is its unique fusion of many other styles. Oklahoma-style barbecue can be made with pork ribs, brisket, bologna, hot links and even turkey . It also hits the sweet spot on sauciness — less vinegary and saucy than some, but not as dry as Texas barbecue. Try the city's best barbecue for yourself at an Oklahoma City staple less than ten minutes from the museum: Leo's Barbecue. At this casual BBQ joint, hungry customers fill up on the Leo's Special: chopped beef, hot links, bologna and ribs paired with two sides and a slice of Strawberry Banana Cake. Looking for a more upscale experience? Sample the succulent smoked turkey and creamy macaroni cheese at downtown favorite, Iron Starr Urban Barbecue.

250 km
3.5 hours by car
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Experience The Way the West Was: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
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Experience The Way the West Was: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Leave Oklahoma City and drive north on Interstate 35 to Kansas to see the tallgrass prairie, which once covered more than 68 million hectares of the USA. Today less than 4 percent remains — nearly all of it found in Kansas at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. This preserve protects the tallgrass and the wildlife that calls the area home. Tallgrass Prairies is open for year-round hiking and exploring its historic limestone ranch buildings. Visit in fall to see the tallgrass at its tallest — sometimes as high as your head. Three nature trails through the preserve allow you to get up close to the wildlife and plants, but the Bottomland Nature Trail is a favorite thanks to its educational signage, wheelchair accessibility and benches for resting throughout the walk. See the rare bottomland tallgrass prairie being restored here and learn about its historical importance while strolling the .8 and 1.2-kilometer paths.

Majestic U.S. bison once roamed the prairies of the West, and after nearing extinction in the early 1900s, the herds have rebounded. A protected bison herd was reintroduced to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in 2009 and has since grown to nearly 100 bison. Visitors can typically see these massive animals foraging in the tallgrass while hiking the Preserve's nature trails. Just remember to keep your distance; bison are known to be aggressive when feeling threatened. 

After your visit, drive two hours northwest to the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport to return your rental car and fly home.